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Art Festival Strategic Partnerships

Defining the problem: Sponsorship and partnerships can be game-changing for an art festival, yet many art festivals have a hard time attracting sponsors.

Strategic partnerships with local or national companies, local governments or other cultural organizations can be crucial to the long-term viability of an art festival. Having partners that can supply volunteers, market the event, and/or contribute to funding make a noticeable difference in the quality of the overall event, which increases the prestige of the event in following years. Yet, sponsorship can be difficult to attract. It is important to recognize that sponsorship is principally about meeting the marketing needs of the company--sponsorship of art festivals may not necessarily at the top of their agenda. An art festival seeking sponsorship will always be competing with all sorts of other ways that companies can spend their money to market their brand. Thus, art festivals have to position themselves as a valuable partner and a good business proposition. Many art festivals desire a roadmap for this process-how to find an appropriate sponsor, how to attract or approach a sponsor, and how to leverage sponsorship both during the event and after.

These partnerships are beneficial for both the festival and the partner. The good news is that these partnerships can be useful for the sponsor. These potential sponsors or partners realize that being seen as generous in either funding or in kind contributions enhances their public image. The major benefit to both parties are greater community involvement, connections to new participants, and additional resources. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, festival audiences on average are more diverse than those for many other types of live art events.

What else motivates businesses to sponsor festivals or otherwise give financial backing?There is an undeniable glamour factor: an association with the festival gives a degree of cultural sophistication as well as a venue for a great marketing opportunity. Working with a festival can also help a company to deliver its corporate social responsibility strategy. Companies keen to show local politicians that they are about more than just making money will support local arts events to demonstrate their commitment to the community.

How to market your organization as beneficial to the company.

But how do you convince someone that your festival is the right fit? Quite frankly, prestige is often what attracts sponsors to a festival, and it is hard to build. If your show has had a low profile, then you have to think pragmatically about how you seek sponsorship. You have to understand how your value proposition coincides with the strategic objectives of the donor.It is critical to fully understand your organization's unique story, value, and impact-and more importantly, to be able to communicate these to sponsors that align with your organization's mission. Companies often sponsor events that align with their brand, and often events accept sponsorships from brands that align with the purpose of the event. This arrangement allows the business to interact with its ideal consumer, gain trust and recognition with its consumer base, and create brand experiences in non-traditional ways.

What companies are looking for is a sense that the festival is well run and there is robust measurement of impact in place, as well as how many people will be coming to the show and from where - local, national or international. That means there's a burden on the festival to provide that level of detailed analysis of the impact it has made. Being prepared with these data points can mean the difference between sponsorship or not.

Below is a list of things to consider when approaching a sponsor.

1. Create a prospectus about the Festival. This should include:

  • The Festival's Vision

  • Mission

  • History

  • Information about the Art Festival including

  • Attendance

  • Socio-economic overview

  • Sponsorship Benefits - overview of what the sponsorship achieves

  • Sponsorship Levels - specific benefits associated with each level

  • Community Programs available for sponsorship

2. Examine the events that companies already support to see where yours might match their priorities.

3. Remember that companies have their own agenda - self-promotion.

4. Remember also that sponsorship is a business arrangement, not a casual quid pro quo.

5. If you cannot offer 'prestige', you may be able to provide other benefits to a company, such as helping it demonstrate its corporate social responsibility.

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